The status quo isn’t enough when it comes to building more homes in Peterborough.
The latest numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show Peterborough lagging when it comes to building new homes. In May, there were 20 new homes started and 17 completed in the Peterborough Census Metropolitan Area. Meanwhile next door in the City of Kawartha Lakes 278 new homes were started and 15 completed. Kingston saw 195 starts and 136 completions. Barrie had 123 starts and 75 finishes.
While these numbers can ebb and flow based on a variety of factors, the overall theme is that we need to do more to create housing in our community.
While the prices of homes seem to have stabilized over the last couple months, supply is still way behind demand.
According to the report Baby Needs A New Home: Projecting Ontario’s Growing Number of Families and Their Housing Needs, Ontario is going to need 1 million new homes over the next 10 years. The report, which is from the Smart Prosperity Institute and funded by the Ontario Homebuilders’ Association, notes that we’re already 65,000 homes short of what is needed.
Lack of access to housing is creating additional social challenges in our community. It’s also making it difficult to attract and retail talent, which is one of the biggest challenges facing local businesses right now.
According to Statistics Canada, we’re experiencing the highest level of interprovincial migration in more than 30 years, with Ontario taking the biggest hit. Many of the people leaving are younger, first-time home buyers — the very people our labour market is desperately in need of.
There is a lot to debate in terms of types of housing needed and strategies to make it affordable for first-time buyers, but the core issue is we simply need more — more single detached-homes, duplexes, townhouses, low-rises, and mid-rises. We need to infill and create higher-density neighbourhoods, but also look to expand into new areas.
One key area Peterborough can address to help increase housing stock is to streamline the planning approval process. The Province is rolling out Bill 109, known as the More Homes for Everyone Act, which includes streamlining and speeding up the municipal planning and approvals process for new developments. The City of Peterborough received $1.75 million from the Province to help with streamlining the development process. It’s important that the City embrace measures that are in the interest of improving access to housing in our community.
Streamlining the municipal planning process will involve delegating more approval responsibilities to the qualified and competent staff at City Hall. There will still be public notice and consultations, but plans that meet the rules set out by council and the province will get approved more easily and quickly. It will also take some of the politics out of planning, reducing red tape and uncertainty.
Aside from taking direction from the Province, there are some very knowledgeable people and organizations that want to be part of the solution. Peterborough and the Kawarthas Home Builders have been actively working with City staff and council, highlighting the barriers homebuilders face and suggest way to improve the development process.
Whether it’s Provincial direction through Bill 109 or something more grassroots, our community needs an active and concerted effort streamline the process for building more homes — and it’s needed ASAP.